Our birth story ❤️

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I always felt like birth was a really private, personal thing between mum, dad and baby but birth stories helped me so much during pregnancy I found that I couldn’t wait to write mine up and share it.

I always imagined I’d be posting this immediately, but newborn life is a whirlwind and there were parts that I still needed to process, and I wasn’t ready to write it while feeling like an emotional cocktail of hormones!

Buckle up, grab a cup of tea, it’s a long post…! I’ve included subtitles so you can skip parts you’re less interested in.

First of all it must be said that all along our goal was the right birth for us, and as smooth and safe as possible – not necessarily a “natural” or “hormone/drug free” birth, and we considered preferences for all scenarios, which served us well! Hopefully this goes to show you can have a really positive birth experience even with 1) things not following your first preference and 2) some parts being difficult.

Also, despite all the horror stories about sections, mine hopefully shows they can be positive, and while recovery is so individual and depends on all kinds of factors (you, how the op went, was it elective or emergency, your health, maybe luck…) I had (/am having!) such an amazingly fast and not painful recovery, I was discharged in just under 24 hours and off pain meds entirely by day 5 – better and smoother than some mums I’ve followed who had vaginal deliveries and had issues with stitches weeks later, so it really is different for everyone ❤

Our birth story

🤱🏻First time parents

👶🏻 Known baby girl

📆 born 41 weeks

💊 Gas & air, up breathing, combined epidural-spinal block

💧first preference (all being well) was water birth at birth centre attached to our hospital

🏩 actually born via elective c-section after issues trying in-patient induction for reduced movement 

🌠 discharged within 24 hours of op. Time in hospital – 2 nights before section, 1 night after

🗺 London, UK

🧿 born during COVID-19 

⚠️ possible triggers – mention of difficult personal circumstances, use of the word contractions as it wasn’t a negative for us, failed attempts to insert pessary for induction.

So it wasn’t quite the ‘kicking off with early labour, Gavin & Stacey and pizza while bouncing on my birth ball in our living room ready for vaginal labour in water at the birth centre’ that we’d prepped for as our first choice…

But luckily we’d prepped for various scenarios and we made the right decisions as we needed to for baby & for my mental health & I’m proud of my birth. It was just past difficult personal circumstances that made it more challenging really but in the end we had a wonderful birth overall.

I could NOT have coped without my husband who was AMAZING… it absolutely took the two of us to give birth to our little Cub.

Let’s start at the beginning… 

Pregnancy

My pregnancy was pretty straightforward – I found out on Valentines Day this year (I think 4 weeks pregnant?) just before my period was due, and we had an early scan at 6/7 weeks to see the gorgeous heartbeat and I sailed through the rest of pregnancy with barely any symptoms and no sickness at all! Felt super lucky.

I also was very active before pregnancy (lots of boxing and plyometrics) & remained active throughout which really helped it be a smooth ride to the end (although I had to stop running at 31 weeks as it flared up my PGP/SPD), and as I didn’t get any sickness I was able to continue 5-10 portions of veg & fruit a day (I’m really into nutrition) along with my supplements which I think helped a lot too.

We found out early on I had a low lying placenta & we knew if it didn’t move we’d need a c-section but we were fine about this as long as our Cub was ok, even though our first preference (not ‘plan’ as I don’t believe you can plan something as variable as birth…!) was for vaginal birth.

Due date

I didn’t pay attention to the due date as the calculation is so outdated, and also as less than 5% of babies are born on that day, plus knew I had a longer cycle than the 28 day average which can apparently impact it, and I didn’t want « is she here yet?! » messages 24/7 so we just went by a « due time » of 37-42 weeks (although I knew I personally wouldn’t let us get to 42 weeks). I told people when they asked us that she would come mid – late October / early November (except work who need the actual date on your matb1 for mat leave purposes!) I really recommend this approach so you don’t stress about going overdue or get spammed with messages the night before an arbitrary date!

Birth prep

As we’d known for ages we’d try for a baby in early 2020 (we’d just assumed it would take the average 6 months, not be immediate…!) well before we were even trying I’d read loads about birth, pregnancy and hypnobirthing (I’m an OTT planner 🤣)

Once pregnant I also did the Positive Birth Company Digital Pack (hypnobirthing course) & Post-partum Pack, and the Maternity Collective Antenatal course plus the Lucy Flow Yoga for Birth prep course. I also used lots of Dream Birth Company audio to relax. They were all really useful in different ways and I really recommend them. Transformed my mindset totally from a lifetime fear of birth to being excited for it. I didn’t go to any face to face things due to Covid sadly. 

I read a million positive birth stories, from the smoothest to the most complex intervention filled ones and it really helped. I also read some less positive ones for balance, to understand better what I could do to make our experience as positive as possible.

I also spent time imagining/visualising my birth 1) in the birth centre, with a pool and without just incase, 2) on the labour ward and 3) in theatre as a c section so that I felt calm and positive about all of the possibilities.

🔵Books I recommend: 

▫️for hypnobirthing 

🔹Siobhan Miller’s Practical Ways to Make your Birth Better

🔹Hollie de Cruz Your Baby Your Birth

▫️For being informed & knowing your options

🔹Milli Hill’s Positive Birth Book

🔹Why Induction Matters

🔹Why Caesarean Matters

🔴Books I’d suggest not bothering with (v personal though so no shade if you loved them!): 

🔻Ina May Gaskin’s stuff – too weird & spiritual for me, just really not my thing! If you’re more earth mama / hippy / crunchy inclined you might feel differently though!

🔻while Milli Hill’s Give Birth Like a Feminist is so interesting, maybe read it after pregnancy not during as reading everything that’s been wrong with women’s maternity care over the years is a bit stressful!

🔻Clemmie Hooper How to Grow a Baby & Push it out – was a bit meh for me really, and the other books I recommend above cover all the same material and more in a better format with better detail.

Birth preferences

Together we did tonnes of research, we discussed what we wanted and we adapted the Positive Birth Company template and wrote preferences for all scenarios including caesarean so we felt prepared and happy with our choices for any eventuality (e.g. skin to skin in all scenarios with me or my husband if not possible with me; delayed cord clamping, vitamin K injection, I definitely wanted the injection to deliver the placenta etc etc). The ideal option for us if things were simple and safe to do so was a birth centre water birth. 

How her birth actually went down…!

The lead up…

I had my 36 week scan to check the placenta situation & see if we definitely needed a caesarean or if we’d be trying vaginal birth first, and……. it had moved! We knew this was likely as 90% of the time they do move, but we were convinced she was transverse due to her movements so we thought we’d need a c-sec anyway (we both wanted to decline an ECV if offered) & she wasn’t – she was head down and ready to go (back to bump) like she had been at 20 weeks ☺️… It seemed we’d get our first preference (or an attempt at it!) after all!

Then the waiting game began… it was amazing to hit 37 weeks and for us to be able to tell her she was technically fully baked and it was now definitely safe to come any time she wanted now we were in the 37-42 week window, even though I wasn’t keen to go much past 41 weeks (i know the risk increase is small but I hate risk…!) 

I started getting sporadic pretty mild period-like cramps from I think week 37 (not many though and not strong so it was nice to think my body was gently gearing up for labour but I felt like it was going to be ages as I didn’t get any obvious pre-labour signs or strong Braxton Hicks – at least if I had them I couldn’t feel them!) It’s so funny to be so excited about and desperate for any signs of pain! Also I knew my due date was probably wrong as I have longer cycles than 28 days which is the standard they use to calculate it so it really was a waiting game and sure enough, 40 weeks came and went (had my appointment at 40+1) and I was gearing up for my 41 week appointment at the birth centre where we’d be discussing induction.

The twist…

At 40+5 around 10pmish I was worried about reduced movement as baby had a fairly quiet day and then missed her usual night wriggling session so we went for a routine check at hospital. Monitoring showed all was fine thankfully, I was told just to see the doctor and then I assumed I could go home.  

At 40+6 (as it had gone midnight at this point!) a doctor came to discuss our options (I was alone due to Covid) and they recommended induction on balance as reduced movement can be a warning sign so waiting may carry some risk, and at 40+6 it’s very safe for baby to be born. The doctor was lovely and very measured, not pressuring, answered all my questions and made it clear it was my choice. I used BRAIN framework (benefits, risks, alternatives, instinct, nothing), and although induction was my nightmare scenario due to past personal circumstances which we won’t go into, on balance it seemed better for baby and my husband and my recovery. I also had never wanted to go much over 41 weeks anyway due to increased risk (I know a lot of people are happy to go to 42, but from my reading and research – check out Evidence Based Birth – I didn’t want to) so I’d been trying to mentally prepare for the possibility of induction at 41+3 / 41+5.

A bit of me struggled with this choice after as I did it thinking it was best for baby and my husband. Instinctively I knew it probably wasn’t right for me with past personal circumstances etc, but I tried to just gloss over that and crack on anyway. Now, I can’t regret it as everything that happened brought me here to a healthy, beautiful baby, but part of me has taken a while to adjust to my failure to opt for caesarean straight away.

The induction suggestion was so unexpected that night as the monitoring turned out fine and I thought I’d be going home to bed with my husband and not staying in hospital alone so I was super emotional and cried A LOT, and as I had to be admitted to a ward I had to have a Covid test which was hard with the crying…! 

Because of the past stuff which I hadn’t expected to affect me this badly, being alone and being knackered at 1am, the induction reality (even though I was choosing to do it for baby) really hit me and I had a real panic/meltdown having to explain it on the phone and send my husband home for my hospital bag…!

I used the up breathing to try to calm down and it helped to chat to my husband (probs pissing off everyone on the ward trying to sleep at 1.30am!) as he packed the last items he hadn’t been able to in advance in my bag like charger etc… and he was really excited which helped me feel more positive.

My husband was allowed to drop my bags off just outside the ward and we had an emotional goodbye, and I got settled in my ward by 2.30am and told that as the labour ward was busy it would likely be a 6.00am kick off for the induction. 

I listened to Dream Birth Company and Positive Birth Company affirmations to help me relax and looked at the Pinterest boards I’d made of positive affirmations and pictures of the ocean I find relaxing. 

One of my faves that really helped was “I am prepared for whatever kind of birth my baby needs”.

The induction… attempts

This is the only section that is hard for me to write and I’m still processing a bit. I barely managed to get an hour’s sleep when they woke me up at 5.50am to monitor baby’s heart rate and start the induction (so thankful they let my husband in at 6am which was out of Covid restricted hours due to my previous personal circumstances to help me which I was super grateful for).

I really thought I was more over my past experience than I was, and despite heavy use of gas and air (which basically felt a bit like being tipsy on a couple of big glasses of wine), it was very hard for me. They tried to examine me which didn’t work then tried several times to insert the pessary but because of my history and involuntary seizing up, even feeling drunk on gas and air they couldn’t get it in (my issue was panic and flashbacks more than pain, so gas and air really didn’t do very much for me to be honest). The midwife was nice about it and I kept apologising, we took a few breaks and I forced myself to try again about 4 times but it wasn’t happening and my husband helped me call a stop to it. 

She looked at the monitor which showed I was having contractions every so often anyway even though I couldn’t feel them at all, so she said to wait for the doctor and we could discuss. Baby was healthy and her heart rate was good, but given we were 40+6 now and she’d been quiet the previous day we didn’t want to take any chances so getting her out was still their recommendation, which I agreed with especially given my feelings about not going over 41 weeks.

Because of the failed pessary attempts I was in so much distress I couldn’t go through with any more internal exams. My husband understood and was so lovely to me as I felt a bit like I’d let baby down and him down not being able to do it even after trying really hard. I also felt embarassed as the doctor initially thought I just wasn’t coping with the pain, which wasn’t the issue.

Thank god for the doctor Helen who came to see me, she was so so understanding and really sensitive to how distressed I was and once we’d talked it all out she was so open to tailoring to suit us not putting me in a box and insisting on a set route that was ‘typical’, and made me cry more for being so nice!

We discussed all the options at length, I took some time with my husband to discuss (I honestly really don’t know what I’d have done without him!) and I ended up with an elective c-section decision having used the BRAIN framework to analyse everything.

My husband was amazing at asking all the questions to get more info so we could make the best decision for us and as reluctant as we were for a major op, it became clear it was the best choice for us and my mental well-being as well as for baby.

Positive c-section prep…

I was asked not to eat and drink except for water, as they planned to squeeze me in that afternoon after 5 womens’ electives, so we couldn’t eat the yummy seashell chocolates or terrys chocolate orange, dates, satsumas, apples and flapjack we’d lovingly amassed for labour snacks and we waited for the consultant.

A bit later some midwives came and did my bloods and MRSA swab.

A few hours later after my husband and I chatted and watched Gavin & Stacey for while, happy to get in some of the oxytocin inducing stuff we’d planned. I had a quick shower to freshen up, another doctor came to get me to sign the consent form and run through all the risks etc. The risks sound scary, but they’re pretty remote and as they were risks to me and not baby, I was fine with them.

Around lunch time they put me back on the CTG monitor to check her heartbeat. It also showed I was still having sporadic contractions I couldn’t feel.

I was starting to get really bloody hungry and not enjoying the pre theatre starvation! 

My husband popped home to get my colostrum that I’d expressed out of the freezer while I was still hooked up to the monitor and waiting. 

The consultant came and explained they were super busy, and as they were happy with baby’s monitoring and there wasn’t major urgency they booked me in for a section mid morning the next day which would also mean my Covid test would be back negative and my husband could come in with me (they hadn’t said before that otherwise they have to assume you have Covid and don’t let partners in). I got excited for a moment thinking I could go home, but was advised that it was totally my decision but they’d say it was best for me to stay in overnight to keep baby monitored which I of course agreed to if that was the advice for her safety despite being desperate to go home. At least I got to finally eat some seashell chocolates as my new nil by mouth bar water deadline was midnight. 

I managed to sleep for a couple of hours as I hadn’t the night before, and woke up around 4pm really glad my husband was still there as I just felt really anxious after the morning’s induction stuff. I used up breathing and talking to him to try to stay calm. We went for a walk outside a bit later after a long nap and I had more monitoring in the evening, my husband went home & I cried a bit and then settled down for the night ready to meet our baby the next day!

My last snack was a nakd bar at 10pm and as I was meant to have my section in the morning I figured it wouldn’t be too bad only being allowed little sips of water til then.

Sleep was hard even after having only 1 hour the night before because of noise on the ward, lights etc and I woke up quite a bit. Luckily I couldn’t sleep much past 4am as they woke me up for monitoring at 5.50am anyway!

I prepped by reading c sec recovery articles as I’d forgotten some of the info on the PBC post partum pack which I planned to rewatch at home, and used positive stories by amazing mamas – their insta details are @helenderbs @londonpaleogirl @lucyjessicacarter and @sophieloutaylor – to feel ready and positive about birthing my baby abdominally!

At 7am I had some pre surgery meds and they tidied the shave on my bikini line up ready for the incision. I was quite stressed because they said Covid tests come back in 24 hours and mine still hadn’t in 36+ which meant if it was not back before I go into theatre my husband wouldn’t allowed to come in for the birth. I was just trying to stay positive and have a nap until he arrived at 9am.

The doctors came to discuss the procedure with me again and also let me know my Covid test was negative so my husband would definitely be allowed in theatre – woo! I was so relieved and now properly excited again.

The anaesthetist came an hour or so later to discuss the anaesthetic and review my medication and run through the rare risks – we were getting there!

At 12.25 someone came by to say “are you ready?” And 2 minutes later we were moved to the labour ward, I was strapped into compression stockings and my husband got into his scrubs, rush rush rush. But then an emergency happened so they said we’d be next in the queue but we had to wait for a bit longer. Then we got pushed back for ANOTHER emergency just before 2pm which I understood but also was getting anxious about as I didn’t want to be pushed back another day again and I made my husband go and check and confirm we would definitely be done that day which they assured him we would – we heard they sent the other electives home but I was in. I was feeling a bit weak at this point only being allowed water and not having eaten at all since the day before. I was also starting to potentially feel my contractions (they couldn’t have been more than early labour as they weren’t frequent enough but they did feel just like period cramps and then more intense at the peak).

An amazing caesarean birth

Eventually we were told go time! I felt really teary and emotional and had my cannula fitted. We were taken into surgery which was overwhelming – lots of people (although I knew to expect this) and bright lights, and quite a few people talking at once asking me questions.

We established my preferences for having the screen up (too squeamish), immediate skin to skin (but I agreed for them to quickly towel off baby as theatre was so cold), delayed cord clamping etc.

I was scared about the epidural hurting and not being able to stay still as I felt a bit shaky, and also was feeling my contractions slightly more (I was being given a combined epidural-spinal block – not sure how its different from the separate things but there we go!) but they were so nice and reassuring, my husband was there and also another doctor held my other hand and stroked my arm.

We had epidural & spinal issues in that after the local anaesthetic, they thought they put it in, tested me, and it wasn’t right. We all joked about it though and I wasn’t in any pain. Eventually they asked if I did a lot of pilates or something as what was happening is my ligaments were so tough they’d thought it had gone into the spine but it was just a ligament!

We got there in the end and it was not painful at all.

They tested me with cold spray, and lay me down, we waited for it to spread up my legs which took a while, and tested my tummy with pinches. It seemed to take ages to work – I could still feel them – and I got a bit nervous they’d start the operation and I’d feel it.

At this point it’s a bit blurry but I was talking to my husband and a doctor, and then felt someone pushing on my tummy quite hard – I assumed they were palpating it before starting the op like they did at midwife exams! – but it was quite strong pushing so I was worried they’d hurt baby before getting her out, and asked my husband to look over the curtain to see what was happening (genuinely had no idea the op was in progress!)

Poor husband got an eyeful more than he bargained for!! They’d tested me without telling me and got the ball rolling 🙂

It was all painless – just lots of tugging and pushing, genuinely as everyone says like ‘washing up in your tummy’.

When it all stopped, no sooner had I asked “Is she out?” she opened her beautiful little lungs and scream/cried for dear life so I knew she was breathing, and I asked if she was okay and burst into floods of tears. My husband followed as they took her to dry her quickly (as theatre was cold) before immediate skin to skin.

I could hear her crying at the top of her voice, and the drying took a little bit longer than I’d have liked. They were then about to weigh her but my husband stepped in and said she needed to go straight to me for skin to skin, and I got to see and hold my beautiful baby girl. It was completely magical. She was the most perfect thing (and the most vocal!)

I held her while they finished me off behind the screen, tried to latch baby but the position was hard with the screen up in the way, and then she went to daddy for cuddles and to get her vitamin K jab while they did a few last bits to my stitches, moved my body onto a stretcher slidey thing and slid me onto a bed to be wheeled to recovery where we had several hours of skin to skin cuddles and she breastfed straight away. ❤

It was honestly an incredible experience, nothing about the caesarean was painful in the least, and it ended up being the perfect birth for us and our baby.

Afterwards in hospital…

I was told I’d lost a bit more blood in the procedure than normal, but otherwise it was all very uncomplicated and that resolved itself with no issue and I didn’t even need iron supplements.

They let my husband stay a bit past Covid visiting times, but when I was moved to the post natal ward he did have to go home. Staying alone that night was hard as I couldn’t twist to pick up little one from her cot, and the midwives were rushed off their feet and couldn’t always get to your buzzer instantly so I kept baby on me all night and forced myself to stay awake which was tough! She cried so much, and I knocked out my cannula and got blood everywhere, then she projectile vomited, and needed a nappy change and I had to have two midwives help me…

I was grateful I’d expressed some colostrum before birth to settle her, as while breastfeeding was working pretty well, sometimes she’d be too distressed to latch.

My husband had left me with loads of nice treats – chocolate, dates, satsumas, seashell chocolates we’d brought for labour – but I couldn’t reach them myself on the table next to my bed with baby in my arms and didn’t want to ask the midwives!

While that night was hard, I had my beautiful baby safe with me in cuddles, and then my husband was back to help the next day and seeing him and baby together just made me melt. ❤

I was told I could go within 24 hours if I did certain things, so I was on a mission to get up, walk, get my catheter out, wee twice, all of that jazz as quick as I could and prove I could do it! In non-covid times I’d not have been as worried and would have stayed a day longer for extra breast feeding checks and support if needed, but I absolutely didn’t want a fourth night in hospital alone, without being mobile enough to fully care for my little Cub, she was feeding fine, and I figured we could see a lactation consultant if any issues arose.

I’d been told standing up was agony so as I used my arms to haul myself awkwardly to the end of the bed, I was nervous… but it was fine! I just had to be a bit careful.

I was discharged in slightly less than 24 hours after my section and then tired, emotional, but so in love with our baby, we all went home, and I couldn’t be more grateful for our brilliant birth and the midwives, doctors and anaesthetist who looked after us on the labour ward, in theatre and in recovery afterwards.

Mammoth birth story haha but I wanted to capture everything and wrote some notes of it while in hospital so I wouldn’t forget.

C-section recovery post to follow sometime 🙂

What’s in baby’s hospital bag?

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It’s funny how many millions of these posts it feels like I read in early pregnancy, so when I had to pack my hospital bag and baby’s I knew exactly what I wanted to take 🙂 Boy was surprised I packed baby’s bag properly and he didn’t need to re-do it haha (I’m a terrible packer and he’s super neat!) And he packed mine (top tip I’ve got from so many people that we’ve used and we love – get your partner to pack yours because they need to know where to find the stuff when you’re in labour!)

As I mentioned in this post – What’s in My Hospital Bag – lots of peoples’ ideas differ on what you should or will want to take, and there are tonnes of YouTube videos and blogs you can use for inspo, and my top tip is to take the advice of someone you relate to / feel is more similar. For example I’m not a “crunchy mom” / earth mama type so those aren’t my thing but if you are, those might be your go to!

Again, as with my hospital bag, I used the checklist in the book Practical Ways to Make Your Birth Better by Siobhan Miller from The Positive Birth Company as a base, and then we tweaked based on some useful videos we watched/tips we got etc.

Baby’s bag

For baby’s hospital bag we’re using one of our changing bags – this one from Bababing, available from JoJo Maman Bebe, which comes with a handy changing mat and bottle cooler, both of which we’ll take to hospital for easy changing on the bed if needed and for taking in my colostrum syringes.

Image from JoJo Maman Bebe website – shop the bag here

What we’ve packed for baby

  • The Practical Stuff:
  • Nappies (allow for x10 a day) in newborn size – we have Mamia and Pampers Pure to try based on recommendations, reviews, and we want to see what works best for little one and for us!
  • Cotton wool large pads (to use with water when changing her – nothing else is meant to go on newborn skin!)
  • Aqua wipes (because while nothing else is meant to go on newborn skin, the first meconium can apparently be impossible to get off and these are 99.6% water!)
  • Cellular blanket
  • Muslins
  • x2 bibs
  • Car seat (ours is part of the Oyster 3 pram set which we bought in berry, by Babystyle which we LOVE)
  • The Clothes:
  • x4 sleep suits – 2 newborn size, 2 bigger
  • x3 short sleeved vests – newborn and bigger size
  • x2 long sleeved vests – newborn and bigger size
  • White wool jumper her grandma knitted her!
  • Booties, mittens & a hat her grandma knitted her
  • A winter coat (in case its really cold when we’re bringing her home)
  • The Contingency Stuff:
  • Colostrum syringes (I’ve been harvesting in advance to have a back up supply just in case of a c-section and / or issues with latch etc). We’re keeping these in the freezer for now, and will transport them in the bottle cooler that comes with our changing bag to store in the hospital fridge.
  • Aptamil ready-mixed formula – pack of 6 sterile ready to drink bottles (this seems to cause a lot of controversy but I did not want the stress of a hungry, stressed out baby in the event of latch issues, or a c-sec and delay in being able to feed well, or if we ran out of my back-up colostrum, or if I needed to be in theatre for a while for stitches/transfusions and couldn’t feed her… not that I need to justify our decisions, but formula and breast feeding talks get heated so this was our thinking – we want my husband to be able to feed her if needed if for any reason I can’t. We’re both planners and this made the most sense for us. If this isn’t what you’d do, that’s fine, but we’ve done our research and made our decision so please don’t message me not to do this!)

We’re travelling light with baby in my head, but apparently you always overpack…! So we’ll see. Either way, we live 10 minutes drive (ish) from the hospital and so it will be easy enough for my husband to get us stuff from home if we need it, given restrictions due to Covid at the moment seem to prevent partners from staying with you the whole time.

What else did you pack in your baby’s hospital bag? Anything you feel like we’re missing?

If you found this post useful, you might also like:

What’s in My Hospital Bag

Preparing for labour

Dream Birth Company Review

Maternity Collective Antenatal Course

B xoxo

What’s in my hospital bag

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I found all of the youtube videos and blogs on this topic so interesting just to be nosey about how everyone approaches packing their hospital bag (!) and super useful in working out what to take in mine, so I thought I’d do a similar post.

I used the checklist in the book Practical ways to make your birth better by Siobhan Miller from the Positive Birth Company

as the base of what I was taking, and then I supplemented based on videos I watched where I felt like I identified with the people filming (as some people, for example, pack a tonne of fairy lights, battery operated tea lights to transform the hospital… that wasn’t really for us, so pick people who you feel match your temperament best!)

Videos I liked and found most helpful were by Fleur de Force and Lily Pebbles, but there must’ve been a million that I watched for inspiration – just search on youtube!

Note: this is what’s in MY hospital bag; we also have a separate bag for baby’s things, and one for my husband which includes all my snacks/drinks etc for labour 🙂

PS. Top tip – don’t pack it yourself! Get your partner to do it, as they’ll be the one needing to root around to find you stuff in it when it’s all kicking off…! Plus if you’re lucky like me, there’s the added bonus that they’re actually a neater packer…! 😉

PPS. If you’re home birthing, it’s still worth maybe considering all the things you’ll want accessible for your birth and immediately afterwards so you and your partner don’t have to stress about locating stuff while you’re mid contraction… just a thought ❤

Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

What’s in my hospital bag

  • Maternity notes
  • Extra copies of our birth preferences (we based ours on the PBC template and planned for all scenarios)
  • Iphone, charger, headphones (to be packed on the day!)
  • Bikini top & sports bra (options to wear if we do get a pool, if I want to wear some kind of clothing – I probably won’t care!)
  • Flip flops (incase I do take a shower in the hospital and don’t want to walk on gross floors!)
  • Lightweight dressing gown (one I got from a spa to relax me, and not too fluffy as apparently hospitals are hot AF…! But also one I don’t mind leaving behind me, because you know… hospitals, gross, hygiene, COVID etc…)
  • V. v. loose short dress (instead of a nightie – loose enough that it’s easy for breastfeeding, comfortable for labour if I’m not in the pool, and if I did have an unplanned c-section it wouldn’t irritate a scar)
  • x2 flannels (for cold compress during labour and/or washing my face later!)
  • Lip balm (gas & air dries your lips a lot apparently)
  • Hairbands, hairbrush, hair clip (gotta keep the mane off the face!)
  • Pillow (?) In non-covid times I’d take a comfy feather one, but I might just take one of our less nice spare room pillows and chuck it, but that seems pointless as the purpose of this is more for comfort/familiarity/relaxation, so I may not bother…
  • TENS machine (likely to come out at home in early labour first, but it’s ready to go! We have the Babycare ELLE TENS machine)
  • Water wipes (these didn’t fit in baby’s bag… in baby’s bag we have cotton wool as you’re only meant to use cotton wool and water on newborn skin but apparently the first meconium can be super tough to get off, so you can sort of cheat with 99.6% water wipes… we got these Aqua Wipes)
  • x2 nursing bras (I bought this nursing bra 3 pack from amazon in these exact colours and they’re super comfy, and really cheap).
  • Breast pads (the bamboo washable ones from Boots – I think they’re these Boots maternity pad ones but I’m not sure as Boy bought them for me – TMI but my colostrum started leaking from week 19/20 in pregnancy so we bought them early)
  • Nipple cream (this Lanisoh lanolin one seems to be the most universally recommended!)
  • x2 packs maternity pads (these Lilets ones)
  • Big knickers (high enough to go over an emergency c-section scar just in case! I can’t remember which ones I got but I got navy as they were out of black and it was a pack of 6 or 7 from Amazon)
  • Disposable maternity knickers (yep, adult nappies ready for all the blood. JOY. Again, I found these on Amazon)
  • Dark towel (dark is best because you will bleed!)
  • Toiletries (toothbrush, paste, cleanser etc)
  • Mini makeup bag (with my MAC concealer, some lipsticks, mascara… nothing scented so that baby can smell me not my makeup though. Fleur took a makeup bag in and I just agree that it’s a fab idea as you don’t know how long you’ll be in hospital, I don’t know how much of it will be without Boy due to COVID restrictions, so if baby is sleeping and I’m alone, I might want to actually sort my face out and feel some semblance of normal human being. I also might not give AF (probably gonna happen!) and ignore it, but its nice to have just in case!)
  • Going home clothes (I picked a long black dress from ASOS that isn’t maternity but I’ve worn all pregnancy as it’s so comfy and makes me feel less like a whale! But the key is its loose fitting and won’t irritate me, even if I have an unplanned caesarean or something!) I’ll also have the maternity leggings, top and jumper I’m going to wear into hospital incase I’d prefer those!)
  • Essential oils – lavender, frankincense, bergamot and clary sage (for my compress/relaxation during labour – I find lavender and clary sage super relaxing – just don’t go sniffing clary sage before you’re 37 weeks! Bergamot I find really relaxing too (I love earl grey tea and it’s the same scent!) And apparently frankincense is a good one to help with breathing when you’re in transition and completely freaking before the pushing phase…!)
  • Liquid yoga room spray by Mama Mio – this smells divine and the peppermint notes are really refreshing. I saw so many mums and Lucy Flow Yoga recommend this, and just had to have it! I spray it when I do yoga at home, so for hospital it should help me get back into that more chilled headspace.
  • Sleep/relaxation blend roller for pulse points – this was a gift for xmas one year and it’s a nice destress little blend 🙂
  • UPDATE post publication: also packing paracetamol & ibuprofen – my due time buddy just gave birth early and recommended I pack these because it can be a few hours wait sometimes if they’re busy before you’re brought pain relief on the post natal ward, so I just shoved some in my bag and I want these for when I’m a bit sore/uncomfy when it’s all over!

What did you pack in yours/what are you currently packing?! I’ve seen people take huge wheelie suitcases but we’re just taking a small weekender bag (given we live like 10 minutes from the hospital, and Boy will be visiting hours restricted due to COVID 😦 he’ll also be able to pick up any extras from home if we need them in between, we just wanted to take the essentials.

Might do a separate post on baby’s bag too as that’s waaaay cuter 🙂 More gorgeous little outfits and less adult nappies haha!

B xoxox

Dream Birth Company review #Gifted

*all imagery from The Dream Birth Company website // The Dream Dad Handbook*

I first found The Dream Birth Company aaaages ago, listening to the Madeleine Shaw ‘Get Your Glow Back‘ podcast where founder Clodagh was interviewed by Maddy about her amazing mindful birthing company.

(This was last year, when we knew we’d be trying for a baby in early 2020, but as the crazy over planner I am I was listening to and reading all the parenting, birth, baby and related content I could find in advance haha!)

Fast forward to 2020, newly pregnant, and I was glad I’d already found a whole bunch of resources I could use to support me in my pregnancy, and specifically for birth which I’d spent (like many women!) a lifetime in fear of! (See my blogpost on overcoming the fear of labour and birth here!)

The Dream Birth Company premise of blending the best of mindfulness techniques with the best of hypnobirthing (but re-branding the ‘woo’ness of hypnobirthing that often puts the slightly less hippy/alternative-inclined people off – including me initially!) was something that really appealed to me, and I think they’ve done it incredibly well. Not to mention I’m a sucker for their gorgeous water-based imagery… calming from the get-go!

(I’m not saying hypnobirthing is bad – in other pregnancy posts I’ve recommended resources I’ve found super helpful, but I totally agree it needs a rebrand and refresh and The Dream Birth Company does this so perfectly!)

They have fantastic free audio on their website here which you can use to help you relax throughout pregnancy and gradually change your mindset about birth. It sounds mad that affirmations can help (I’m not into positive pop psychology as a rule!) but they really did make a huge amount of difference for me – plus Clodagh’s amazing soothing voice is just the best for pre-recorded meditations and relaxations ever!

Chatting about birth and babies on instagram, Clodagh was also kind enough to gift me a copy of The Dream Birth Company’s Dream Dad Handbook, and I wanted to share my thoughts because I think resources for women in pregnancy are often plentiful but sometimes the dads get overlooked in the process, and while they’re not giving birth themselves, labour is a huge life changing experience for them too, and they will have a big role to play in supporting you!

The Dream Dad Handbook is a really concise, easy guide, so perfect for any dads who don’t have tonnes of time to read a million books ahead of birth! It covers:

  • Roles and responsibilities – understanding birth, and the role you can play in supporting your partner
  • Practical ways you can help – top tips and actions you can take in preparation for and on the big day!
  • The Dream Dad List – a handy checklist of what to pack to take to the hospital if that’s where you’re birthing your baby, or what to have on hand at home
  • Early labour – how you can help prepare and ideas for helping your partner during early labour
  • Breathing techniques – so you know how to coach your partner (and keep calm yourself!)

It is such a simple, short, beautifully put together ebook that gives dads who are short on time the essentials in a very practical way.

You can also upgrade to use on of the Dream Birth Company’s packages or a 1:1 call with Clodagh for more specific coaching.

If you’re looking for something clear, easy to read, and very practically-based, then The Dream Dad Handbook is exactly what you need!

My husband is very meticulously organised and appreciates things being super-concise, well-ordered and efficient so I think he’ll really appreciate this! 🙂

Have you used The Dream Birth Company resources or packages in your pregnancy? Let me know what your fave parts were! ❤

B xoxo

*The Dream Dad Handbook product mentioned in this post was gifted*.

Online antenatal course – The Maternity Collective

woman in blue dress wearing silver ring
Photo by Iamngakan eka on Pexels.com

I just thought I’d pop on here and do a quick review of a course I found really useful in my prep for getting our beautiful baby born this October, however that ends up happening (!) be it vaginal delivery or out of the sun roof 🙂

This is not sponsored, nor was it gifted – I found this over the course of lockdown and The Maternity Collective were kindly offering everyone free access to their online antenatal course (usually at a price point of circa £80 I believe) because of the COVID situation.

COVID clearly did reduce access to ante- and post-natal support for so many women, so access to The Maternity Collective course was incredibly useful, but regardless, it’s still something I’d recommend to you if you’re pregnant even when we return to more normal times!

The course is delivered online in easy to access videos, and has subtitles for anyone with accessibility issues in all sections except the breastfeeding and newborn behaviour presentations (at the time of writing this) but these do have written accompanying slides you can download with the key information points on them.

What I loved about the course is that while all of the hypnobirthing content and books and the online course I’ve done have been super helpful and include some science, The Maternity Collective was created by a wonderful, highly qualified obstetrician and so it better covers the medical ins and outs in more detail, with more clarity, than hypnobirthing-geared content – but Dr Ellie Rayner (who you can find on instagram here @maternitymedic) also appreciates the value of hypnobirthing techniques and that approach to birth and so fuses the best of both worlds into a really helpful, informative, calming and reassuring course (she is a hypnobirthing instructor as well as an incredible, highly qualified medic!)

I’ve found ‘pure’ hypnobirthing books and techniques very helpful, don’t get me wrong, (I recommended many of their resources in some of my other recent posts!) but I do think some hypnobirthing content out there almost creates the impression that it’s hypnobirthers vs. hospitals/medical professionals/’bad’ over-medicalised birth, which really shouldn’t be the case, and The Maternity Collective will give you all of the medical facts, pros and cons, from an unbiased perspective, whilst the value of hypnobirthing is completely recognised and optimal practises are recognised and encouraged.

The course is thorough without being overwhelming, and covers:

  • Preparing for labour and birth (and understanding how it all works!)
  • Normal labour and birth (the various stages, what happens, and pain relief options)
  • Reasons you might meet an obstetrician (all the details on everything from inductions, delays, assisted delivery, tearing, episiotomies, caesareans and what happens if there is too much bleeding after birth)
  • The postnatal period (physical and emotional recovery, and caring for your brand new baby!)
  • A quick summary (on how to create your birth preferences, and make informed decisions throughout labour so that you are in control of everything that happens to you)
  • Breastfeeding and newborn behaviour (all the science of milk supply, techniques for feeding, baby’s body clock, sleeping, what to expect, what’s normal and trouble shooting, plus a guide to formula feeding)
  • There are also some course notes, birth preference templates and breastfeeding and newborn sleep slides for you to keep.

I loved the course’s simple and accessible format, and it will tell you everything you need to know to prepare for labour (you don’t even need to buy any other books if you don’t want to!) and it has some amazing content to get you thinking about what happens afterwards as well, particularly the detail on breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is a topic you hear about so much and is shrouded in mystery because on the one hand it seems so natural and on the other you hear all these stories of problems, struggles, pain and experiences where it didn’t work out.

The Maternity Collective course goes in to a lot of detail on how milk supply works, common breastfeeding issues and the best action to take, seeking support, how and when to feed and what to expect from your baby, how you will know if they’re feeding enough or if there is cause for concern, why babies need to be fed so much at night, and much, much more! There is also the recognition though that you may want to formula or combination feed and so there is a handy pdf guide to formula feeding should this be the best option for you.

If you’re looking for a one-stop shop to prep for labour and afterwards, I would say this course is it!

It’s also a good one for husbands like mine who might find some of the slight ‘woo’ perceptions of hypnobirthing branded courses or content off-putting – with The Maternity Collective you get the same important information, but in a more factual, practical manner (and more of it, from someone who is very, very qualified!)

Hope this helps, let me know if you do try the course and what you think!

If you liked this post, you might also be interested in reading these:

Preparing for Labour | How to ditch the fear of giving birth | Pregnant in a pandemic

TTC tools & tips || + my experience getting lucky first time

Pregnancy & TTC favourites: Books, Apps, Supplements, OPKs & all things Baby!

B xoxox

Preparing for Labour | How to ditch the fear of giving birth | Pregnant in a pandemic

baby lying on white fur with brown blanket
Photo by kelvin octa on Pexels.com

Well hello again everyone! I’ve been fairly quiet on here which is odd given that you’d think in lockdown I’d have had much more time to blog… but being pregnant in a global pandemic, having started a new job (my first fully qualified lawyer job) remotely and various other things have meant that blogging just hasn’t crossed my mind for a while.

Today, though, inspiration struck and I wanted to share some resources that I’ve used to totally change my mindset about giving birth.

This post will cover the resources I’ve used which I’d credit (alongside a lot of time investment on my part!) with taking the fear out of the prospect of giving birth for me, and also helping me prepare for birth generally and the postpartum recovery period.

*(Reminder nothing in this post is sponsored/gifted/other, it’s all stuff I’ve paid for [except the Maternity Collective course which they were giving free to everyone during COVID] and loved and 100% recommend!)*

Where does fear of labour come from?

Because let’s face it, I’ve spent my entire life TERRIFIED of giving birth, like many, many women.

What you see on TV – Rachel on Friends, for example – people lying on their backs, screaming, faces contorted, sometimes legs in stirrups, yelling for epidurals… and that’s just movies and light entertainment (I’ve never even watched One Born Every Minute).

In my ED days I was even scared of pregnant people because of their size – how messed up is that?!

Then you get the STORIES. The whisperings and ‘oh you wouldn’t believe how bad her labour was’, the horror stories, the drama, the nightmare scenarios that people like to tell you…

So as a base line, generally, as a culture, birth has become a very medicalised thing, and something to be feared.

Growing up, I swore that if I had kids I’d get an elective c-section. Now, because I know all the benefits for my baby, I want to try to birth vaginally (if allowed – I may not be able to because at the time of writing [28 weeks pregnant] I still have a low placenta and if this hasn’t moved by the time they do the extra scan to check it at 36 weeks, I will have to have a c-section due to it basically blocking the exit and also high risks of haemorrhaging!)

So what has changed?

Education, & losing the fear

Before trying for a baby, I started reading a lot about birth, pregnancy and all that jazz so I knew what I was in for (see this blog post here on my Pregnancy & TTC favourites which has a full list of the books I read).

If you want the short answer for how I overcame the fear, I guess there isn’t one – it’s a process that took time, effort and mental reprogramming! But a combination of education (and more education!), and taking elements of hypnobirthing which worked for me and my personality (not all – see below!) and basically using my previous study in mindfulness to create an approach to birth that worked for me. I didn’t go on any expensive course or find a magic bullet, I just put the work in.

Getting informed (but still scared!)

One of these books was The Positive Birth Book by Milli Hill. Did it make me feel positive? HELL NO! I found it scary on first read. But I read it 3 or 4 times, alongside some other books which I’ll list below, because it took away the mystery and the unknown, and made me understand all the options for birth (location, pain relief, what interventions might be needed and why, induction, caesareans, pros and cons of absolutely everything).

While initially scary for me, getting educated was a key part of the process to make sure I was in control. Because guess what? You have to consent to everything. You do not ‘have’ to have internal examinations to check dilation. You do not ‘have’ to have an induction. It may be there is a good reason to have them, but knowing you have the choice, and knowing you should ask for all of the benefits, risks and reasons was a game changer for me.

Losing the fear – does hypnobirthing work?

I also read Hypnobirthing: Practical ways to make your birth better by Siobhan Miller, and Your Baby, Your Birth by Hollie De Cruz.

Both are hypnobirthing books, a concept I thought sounded a bit hippy but I’d heard people I admire and respect who didn’t seem completely ‘woo woo’ rave about it on podcasts, so I gave them a go.

I also used the Positive Birth Company Digital Pack (an online hypnobirthing course, which was discounted due to the lack of pregnancy support in hospitals etc during COVID 19).

Hypnobirthing is perhaps a woo name, but it’s not really all that woo and certainly isn’t to do with hypnotising yourself, or ‘out there’ practices (full disclosure: occasionally I found hypnobirthing does have a slight push towards home birth (which isn’t for me) which I found a bit annoying, and it could get a bit focussed on fairy lights and candles and prioritising natural birthing to the point it almost felt like it was saying non natural birth was negative [although they explicitly do state ALL births are valid] sometimes, but generally it is science based to help you ensure you stay calm to keep your body hormonally optimal for labour to progress smoothly, with less pain).

Some hypnobirthing fans recommend Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, which is a book I HATED because it was waaaaaay to weird and spiritual and hippy for me. But we’re all different I guess!) But if that’s not your bag, more practical and let’s say ‘modern woman’ rather than ‘earth mother’ approaches do exist, and those are the ones I’m talking about here that helped me.

I don’t for one second buy all of it, particularly that birth is pain free (some hypnobirthing teachers claim it doesn’t have to be painful, others state that they disagree with this like me!), but I do believe that naturally our responses to what is happening in our bodies (e.g. panic, fear, relaxation, understanding, acceptance) can influence that and how bad it feels.

I found that hypnobirthing is really an approach that focusses on empowering women to:

  1. understand your body during labour, how the muscles and hormones work to facilitate your birth and what you can do to keep these as optimal as possible;
  2. understand your choices during labour (you ALWAYS have a choice, and it is important to be informed and that you know you have the right to give or refuse consent for anything)
  3. learn relaxation techniques to keep adrenaline (which inhibits labour) at bay and maximise oxytocin (which makes labour happen) – these can also be used to keep you calm during interventions or caesareans, they’re not just for vaginal births!;
  4. understand natural techniques for labour e.g. using upright, forward and open positions to allow gravity to help you, instead of mindlessly following TV over medicalised assumptions that you should lie down, which really just helps doctors/midwives see what’s happening!; and
  5. essentially to feel empowered and have a positive birth experience, whatever path your birth takes (rather than feeling traumatised and like decisions were made for you, or that you were not in control).

Plus it helps guide your birth partner on how best to support you during labour.

Many of the relaxation techniques weren’t for me and my partner (if he even tried to read me a relaxation script we’d both die laughing!) but the breathing techniques, positive affirmations and emphasis on re-wiring my view of birth from something necessarily traumatic to something that can be a positive experience really helped me move past being scared.

Rewiring your brain

I was NOT up for watching videos where I’d have to see a baby emerging from a vagina. I’m way too squeamish, and not one of those women who thinks that sight is ‘beautiful’. Sure, babies are beautiful, I’m sure the experience of birth can be beautiful, but that’s too much gore for me personally.

Hypnobirthing advocates using positive birth stories, photography, videos, and affirmations to gradually re-condition how you perceive birth. Stop all negative input, and crowd it out with positive.

I didn’t really want to see pics or graphic videos, but I did use:

  • Reading positive birth stories in the two books above, and then the members groups for the Positive Birth Company Digital Pack, and also my Lucy Flow Yoga – Yoga For Birth prep members hub.
    • I started skipping ones which had trigger warnings that particularly worried me (episiotomies, tearing, forceps, ventouse, emergency c-sections) and just read ones that sounded smooth and simple.
    • As I did more hypnobirthing practice and read more of these, I became less afraid and started reading the more complicated birth stories too – this made me realise that even a complicated birth which has things go ‘wrong’ or not as planned can still be a positive experience. So many women wrote about births which on paper you might think could have been super traumatic, but because of their mindset, their hypnobirthing, the fact they were informed and in control and had prepared for all scenarios, they still felt empowered and that the overall experience was positive. This was a game changer for me. 
  • I also listened to the birth experience of my nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert on her podcast (here) which sounds very traumatic and happened during the height of COVID-19. I found it so interesting to hear that a lot of the stress comes from feeling things are going ‘wrong’, not knowing what happens for certain procedures and feeling like birth isn’t going to plan. This really brought home to me that being prepared for birth to take any number of unexpected courses is key and has helped me lose the fear in the build up to it.
  • Positive birth affirmations – the Positive Birth Company has a recording when you buy the pack, but my favourites were actually the free audio ones on the Dream Birth Company website.
  • Limited (!) videos – I watched a few you tubers talk about their positive birth experiences and hypnobirthing, as an intro so I didn’t need to see it. Then I found a couple of you tubers who vlogged their labour (but don’t show you anything too much!!) helpful – especially Kerry Conway’s third labour (no epidural) (part 1 here and part 2 here), and Jess Hover’s two births without epidurals (vaguely remember some brief religious mentions which I just ignored as that’s not my thing).

LucyFlow – Yoga for Birth course

Lucy is a little ray of sunshine I found at random on instagram. She has done a huge series of free IGTV talks about all things labour, birth prep, pregnancy and early days with a newborn, and I loved them so much and then signed up to her online yoga membership / yoga for birth course.

This was great for some pregnancy-friendly yoga for relaxation, and also learning more upright, forward and open optimal birth positions. She also had helpful resources on the fact that it is sometimes possible to be mobile even with an epidural or continuous monitoring – how to ask and how this can be done, which was really useful.

Lots of the yoga flows are designed to help ease pregnancy specific problems (back pain etc) and to prepare your pelvis to really open up. It was amazing to learn the facts about how you can get 30% MORE SPACE in the pelvis by not lying down and preventing the sacrum from moving etc.

It was also nice because membership comes with free access to her Member’s Hub where you can chat about all things pregnancy, yoga, other, ask questions and generally support other mums!

It’s super affordable and I highly recommend it. Check out her website here to sign up.

Maternity Collective Online Antenatal course

As I’d done so much reading and research, and the fact that due to coronavirus antenatal classes in person being cancelled, when I looked at antenatal classes charging £250+ for stuff I already knew, I didn’t see the point, especially as most people say the value is in making mum friends, and I didn’t feel like paying that much money to do that over zoom.

Then I found the Maternity Collective who generously offered free access to their online antenatal course (normally circa £80), again because of the lack of pre and post natal support for women during the coronavirus situation.

It was SO helpful because it was more medically / scientifically detailed than the hypnobirthing content on the physical parts of labour, pain relief, interventions etc.

It also had extensive sections on feeding options and newborn sleep, to help prepare for the part which comes after the labour!

Postive Birth Company – Post Partum Pack

PBC’s postpartum pack (an online course covering everything you need post-birth!) was also reduced to £20 because of COVID for a limited time, and I found this really helpful to prepare and swot up on breastfeeding, baby sleeping (or lack thereof!), maternal mental health, physical and mental recovery from labour, post partum rehab, exercise and yoga, and much much more! Definitely recommend this, especially if coronavirus or other things have prevented you getting to classes or having the normal amount of support with this.

Thanks for reading my ramblings!

I hope if you did stumble across this post as you prepare for birth that you found it helpful – everyone is different, and what works for one may not work for another, but I was so so so scared and anti the idea of labour before and now I’m so excited for it, so it is possible to have a complete mindset shift!

Best of luck with your pregnancy and birth prep if you’re at that stage of your journey, or if not and you’re curious ahead of time like I was… fab, I genuinely don’t think you can get enough prep in because these are things we can never ever be fully prepared for!

B xoxo

TTC tools & tips || + my experience getting lucky first time

family of three lying on bed showing feet while covered with yellow blanket
Photo by Simon Matzinger on Pexels.com

I have devoured as many blogs, books, vlogs and podcasts on these topics as I could possibly find on my TTC journey (I saw my nutritionist as well to discuss!) and some resources I found useful, some I didn’t, some I could relate to and some I totally couldn’t. (Spoiler: my nutritionist was brilliant though!) We knew well in advance that we’d start trying in 2020, & I had a good 6 months prior to that to do my research so yep, super nerdy & organised but there you go!

So here is another post that I’m throwing out there into the depths of the internet that may bore you to tears, or you may wish to ignore, but if it helps just one person or just one finds it vaguely interesting or helpful in their TTC research – that’s the whole point of blogging, right? Making sense of things, I like writing for the sake of it anyway and sending posts up into the internetz where you can discard or read as you like.

So. My TTC journey, tools and tips. PS nothing here is sponsored (obvs I’d have stated if it was!) this is all just what I’ve done and purchased etc. myself!

I’m struggling with this topic slightly as I’m conscious that TTC is a journey for two, and my other half is way more private than me, so I’m trying to be careful not to overshare… but equally I want to write about my experience on the topic, so hopefully I get that line right!

What I did – in prep for TTC

TTC, if you didn’t already know, is ‘trying to conceive’ lingo that you’ll find all over forums etc. Naturally I took steps before we were even trying. These were…

Read, read, read! & research

Omg did I over-read, over-research and over-prepare! I devoured everything I could on trying to conceive, and there were pros and cons to this. First and foremost, knowledge is power, right, so it’s good to know stuff. Also, a woman really should know her cycle (and I honestly can’t believe I haven’t tracked my whole life!) so from a health point of view and knowing and taking care of your own body, I would highly encourage you to download an app (I use Glow and Clue) and track your crimson wave, ladies. Glow is best as if you do later use ovulation tests, the algorithm accounts for these and adjusts accordingly whereas Clue is less sophisticated (but can help you get a loose idea of cycle length & when your fertile window will likely be).

I listened to podcasts not just about the TTC portion though, but about motherhood, all topics baby… I dunno, I studied lit & then law LLM so maybe obsessive research is just in me. Soz!

Track your cycles – before you’re even thinking about TTC

I started tracking I think 4 or 5 months before we were TTC. As I said above, I think we should all track our cycles anyway, but if you’re going to be TTC its helpful if you have several cycles of data so you know the length of your cycle, how often this tends to vary, so that you can better predict ovulation etc.

Improved my diet

I cut out caffeine for a few months, and alcohol (except for my hen and wedding, although I did slip with this over Xmas!) I disguised this on insta as the « Level Up Project » which you’ll see on my highlights if you’re eagle eyed 🙂

I focussed on getting as many fruit and veg portions in and eating a rainbow as much as I could, and, as always, tried to eliminate processed foods as much as possible, plus I started adding berries to my porridge in the mornings for an extra antioxidant boost.

Then I wanted to take it a step further, and…

Visited a nutritionist

I went to see Rhiannon Lambert, my nutritionist (clinic details here) to check in on my diet 4 months before we were going to try, to see if it was optimal for TTC, to discuss any changes I might need to make, to check my supplements, and anything my other half should be doing to his diet too. It was super helpful. I can’t recommend it enough. I ended up needing to up my fibre intake a little more every day, and came away with tips, tricks and recommendations for the two of us. ❤

Reduce stress

This is SO HARD, I know. And then after being period-regular as clockwork for years, just before we were TTC I was late by 11 days!!!! 11! That never happens for me! And it stressed me out even more!

Some of the techniques I used to reduce stress were:

  • A mindset shift. Prioritising self-care more
  • Regular baths with aromatherapy oils
  • Reading amazing books on my commute
  • Walking more, outside, as much as possible
  • Practising deep breathing techniques and pranayama at my desk even in the middle of the day
  • Taking 2 minutes to go to the loo and hide in a cubicle do the yoga pose ‘forward fold’ which is INCREDIBLE
  • Inhaling lavender oil scent at my desk when headachey or stressed
  • Facial massage
  • 10 minutes of meditation per day
  • Reduce ‘hardcore’ workouts (this was so tough for me!) as they can put more stress on the body, and I took up some lighter ones – taking some of the intensity out of my boxing, jogging not sprinting, regular shorter sessions instead of triple Kobox etc.!

What I did – actually TTC!

Sex

Obviously, this is a given. To maximize chances there are recommendations that you have sex every other day for the whole month, and more if you want during your fertile window (ideally daily). I guess you have to find what you feel works for you. Various studies suggest slightly different things though but the facts below help you do the math and make your own decisions. I won’t overshare here on what we did because I feel a bit like you stray into the too personal, and also I can’t imagine Boy would thank me for writing about those details on the internet…! I’ll just share some facts below and you can work out what you feel is best for you and your partner.

Some facts to help you decide what you want to do…

  • Each month, there is only roughly about a maximum 20% chance (for a healthy, fertile, normal couple!) that you’ll get pregnant.
  • It can take 12 months for a healthy, fertile, normal couple (under 35) to get pregnant, and this is normal.
  • There are 55 million sperm roughly per ejaculation… and each time, only 15 will make it to where they need to be. Turns out the vagina being acidic, attacking sperm as a foreign body incase it’s a virus, all kinds of things, makes it a pretty tough trip for your guy’s swimmers.
  • There seem to be conflicting studies on whether you should have sex on alternate days to let sperm replenish (I read another study that suggests sperm motility is best 3 hours after a previous ejaculation, so back to back sessions could be good during the fertile window! So basically, it seems there’s not necessarily a clear scientific answer… I personally reckon the best idea here is have as much sex as you fancy!)
  • Many lubes can kill sperm so you need a sperm-friendly one if you want to use it. Try Pre-Seed if you want a definitely safe one 🙂

Continued to track, and ordered OPKs

I hadn’t wanted to use Ovulation Predictor Kits originally, but for various reasons including Boy needing to travel for work, we ordered some anyway. I used the Clearblue Advanced Digital Ovulation Test, and you can order a pack of 20 on Amazon. I also continued to track using my apps (Clue and Glow – Glow is much more detailed and you can track literally everything including orgasms haha, and it will overlay any temperature charting you do if you log it with the rest of your cycle for greater accuracy!) The app algorithms for both of these predicted the same fertility window for me, and then I had OPKs to try and confirm and make sure things didn’t change or happen early and late so we’d miss it, and started tracking my basal body temperature for extra accuracy/reassurance.

The reason I chose this particular Clearblue OPK despite it being a bit more expensive, is that it works differently from other OPKs – instead of just tracking one hormone, it tracks two – here’s the spiel from the website and personally I’d give it a really positive rating – it worked for us:

Clearblue® Advanced Digital Ovulation Test works differently to other ovulation tests as it is designed to detect 2 hormones, estrogen and LH. When it detects a rise in your level of estrogen it displays High Fertility (flashing smiley face), and will continue to display High Fertility in the following days whilst it looks for your LH surge. When your LH surge is detected, the test displays Peak Fertility (static smiley face).

Clearblue website

Bought cheapie pregnancy tests in bulk ready for the 2 week wait mania!

You can get packs of like 50 on amazon and it’s soooooooo much cheaper than all the pricey digital ones if you know you’re gonna be on edge during the two week wait and need to keep testing, even though you know you should just wait for your period. I used One Step.

Turns out I didn’t need it all as we might have been expecting to try for up to a year as all the science says that’s normal, but in reality it turned out we were super lucky and we got pregnant first time!!!! ❤

Fertility yoga & meditation

Yep, sounds woo and crazy right? I was up for trying anything, and found it helped me relax, so I used the fertility meditations on Glow premium, and did a bit of research on google on fertility friendly yoga! Whether the ‘fertility’ focus makes any difference, who knows, but it’s a good tool for keeping stress levels down, and staying positive.

Hydrate even more than usual

Ok so this is the grossest thing, but you want your CM (cervical mucus! told you it was gross!) to be egg-white consistency (it helps the sperm travel!), which will usually happen around ovulation – but if you’re dehydrated, your body can’t do this. So drink up!

Stayed off caffeine & alcohol (obviously!)

Caffeine increases the likelihood of miscarriages and also it’s just recommended that you cut it right down if you’re trying. Alcohol… obviously, as per the guidelines, it is best not drink at all if you are TTC and/or pregnant, or might be pregnant. It affects both egg and sperm quality so it’s best for your other half to stay off it as well. Sorry chaps! Sperm quality is 50% of the deal after all…! Not to mention it is not good for the embryo if you do have a little one starting to grow in there.

Bought a BBT thermometer

My original plan was not to bother taking my temperature and just use my apps and OPKs, but I just needed to know I was doing everything possible so I bought this one – the Femometer Digital Basal Body Temperature Thermometer. The reason you need a special BBT thermometer is you need it to detect your temp changes with a greater degree of accuracy, and regular thermometers are only accurate to around 2 degrees so you need a BBT one to make sure you don’t miss the changes (this one that I used has a high level of accuracy (to 1/100 Degree) can be used as a basal thermometer for pregnancy, but also as a general thermometer to measure fever – multi purpose!)

The reason you may want to track your temp while TTC is because it helps confirm when you’re going to be ovulating, so can help you time your extra sex 😉 Mid-cycle you’ll notice a rise in your basal body temperature (BBT). I’m no expert but basically, once your temperature rises up for at least 3 days and stays elevated, you’ll know you’ve ovulated. Ps apparently, if it stays up beyond 16 days then you’re probably pregnant!

So there you have it… TMI and a half haha!

So that’s basically everything, I think… anyone else have anything they did/tried/recommend?!

While I did a lot to support my body and fertility, everyone is different and we were so lucky that it happened first time for us – we’d really expected that it would take at least 6 months if not a year (not least in the back of my mind were my old EDs and the fact my mum needed to go on Clomid to conceive me) and I guess there are never any guarantees. But this is just what worked for us, with a little bit of luck thrown in I’m sure, and obviously everyone’s biology is different ❤

B xoxo

 

Pregnancy & TTC favourites: Books, Apps, Supplements, OPKs & all things Baby!

baby lying on white fur with brown blanket
Photo by kelvin octa on Pexels.com

Sorry not sorry that the baby spam starts now…! I’d look away if this isn’t your thing… 🙂 you’ve been warned!

In this post I’ll cover:

  • Supplements
  • Books
  • Apps
  • Podcasts
  • Books
  • Mummy youtubers
  • The technical stuff – tests, OPKs, sperm friendly lube etc!

But first, I just need a quick natter with you guys!

It’s crazyyyyyyy to be expecting our little cub after so much planning…! I am the kind of crazy person who before we even started trying (like, months before) had done ALL the research, read all the books, listened to all the podcasts, read all the blogs and articles and magazines and watched all the youtube videos. I was on special supplements well over 4 months before we started trying and went to see my nutritionist to discuss my ‘planning to conceive’ diet and check my supplements, and had loads of chats with Boy about his nutrition and supplements too and he was even taking the Wellman Pregnacare trying to conceive ones before we were trying – we were checking his zinc levels and all sorts haha! (You can buy the Pregnacare Him & Her pack for couples here which will have you both covered!)

I get that not everyone would want to be that prepped, and also that some people are more spontaneous – totally fair! We’d known for about a year that we were ready, and we just wanted to wait for the wedding in December to be sorted so I could enjoy my champagne (!), my training contract to end so I was a fully qualified lawyer, and Boy’s probation to be over as he changed jobs during the year. We then had a month to get healthy and back on track post Xmas, so the trying point was set to Jan 2020 and we expected it to take 6 months to a year to conceive (that’s totally normal for healthy couples our age). I know that doesn’t match what we told people our plans were, but we wanted to keep it private and pressure free.

Also, it seems it paid off, because we had expected to be trying for a year and then bam! First try, we had a little cub!

So, OTT though all that planning might be (I can’t help being over-prepared!), it means I’ve collated some useful resources that you may or may not fancy trying if you’re a mum, about to become one, or just super keen to know what you’re in for before you start your TTC journey (trying to conceive for anyone who hasn’t yet stalked all the mummy corners of the internet!). So much of this stuff is personal taste and unique to you, so you might haaaate the things I love, but here are just a few resources that helped me feel prepared!

These are my pregnancy & #TTC  favourites, covering everything from nutrition, wellbeing, keeping baby healthy, fertility and maximising your chances of conceiving, baby psychological development, and keeping sane on the pregnancy new mum journey… plus the ever-terrifying and intriguing topic of labour/childbirth aka the stuff of most girls’ nightmares! Knowing more can take some of the fear out, so get reading gals.

Supplements

Pregnacare – before conception

I took these for 4+ months before we started trying which is potentially overkill, but 3-4 months in advance is good, and 3 months ahead of trying is apparently when you ideally need to begin building up your folic acid stores especially.

We also got these joint packs about 2 months before so Boy could be on the right stuff too:

Pregnacare – him & her conception for couples trying for a baby

As soon as I was pregnant I switched to these Pregnacare  Plus ones which also include omega 3s for brain and eye development 🙂

Books

Of course, being a book obsessive, before we were even trying I ordered a tonne of stuff to get reading up on everything I wanted to know on Amazon. These are the ones I’d recommend you give a go too! For me, I just felt like if you’re going to try for a baby, obviously you want TTC information, but also it’s important to know what you’re in for! The most useful were easily the Henrietta Norton Pregnancy Nutrition Guide, Your Baby Your Birth by Hollie De Cruz, Hypnobirthing: Practical Ways to Make your Birth Better by Siobhan Miller, and The Positive Birth Book by Milli Hill (it didn’t make me feel v positive haha but it’s super informative and helpful and worth a read anyway).

Apps

  • Clue – (free!) this was my go to for period/fertility tracking in the period before we were properly trying, just to familiarize myself with my cycle, so I’d know the dates of my periods and rough fertility windows etc. but then I changed to a different one which if you’re TTC is more accurate because in Clue, you can’t log ovulation tests. In the app below, you can log what your ovulation tests say and it feeds into the algorithm and re-calculates your dates!
  • Glow – (the basic version is free, and is super extensive but I did upgrade to premium as they did 40% off for the new year!) I downloaded this before we were TTC officially and I used the info I had from Clue about my cycle to input all my previous periods. This one is a lot more involved. Clue lets you track emotions and sex as well as periods, for example, but with Glow you can go the whole TTC 9 yards (TMI possibly, but you can include if you were on the bottom or top, or had sex multiple times, log your cervical mucus consistency (this is something I never thought I’d care about when I was younger haha, and you can also log, believe it or not, whether or not your orgasmed!) It also lets you record your basal body temperature so you can really hone in on the ovulation day predictions. You can also track your stress levels, join groups (and weirdly even talk to women on the same cycle as you, but I must admit I didn’t do that!) Anyway, this was so helpful, and I might do a proper review of the app on here if you guys might find more details useful?! It also has meditations if you subscribe to premium, both for general life and de-stressing, and also fertility-specific meditations. But key for me was that while it and Clue looked equally accurate (they initially predicted the same fertile window), Glow updates according to your ovulation tests (it turned out I was ovulating a day earlier than it thought!)
  • Glow nurture – once pregnant, I used the Glow sister app to track Cub’s development 🙂 ❤
  • RelaxMelodies – for keeping calm and helping me sleep, and de-stressing (you need to reduce stress as much as possible while TTC and pregnant!)
  • Freya – this is The Positive Birth Company App and helps with breathing exercises to try to reduce pain and stop you freaking out during labour. I’m all about trying to learn these kinds of techniques in advance! You can also use it to time contractions when the time comes…!
  • Peanut – I’ve heard the founder interviewed loads. She is an amazing entrepreneur and mum, and this is like tinder for mums, to help you meet friends who will also have little ones and be around at the same times as you (and help you find like-minded mums so you don’t end up bored out of your brain on nappy chat if that’s not your thing!) I joined a bit early and spoke to some TTC mamas too!

Courses

I’ve done the Hypnobirthing Digital Pack by The Positive Birth Company which was comforting, and I’m now doing their Post Natal course which teaches you what to expect in the period immediately after birth, and recovery from their, feeding, all that jazz!

Podcasts

These two episodes from Rhiannon Lambert’s Food for Thought:

Also, every single episode on Made by Mammas. I’m addicted to this podcast – it will answer ALL your questions on ALL aspects of pregnancy and having a baby!

I also love Get your Glow Back by Madeleine Shaw, and Happy Mum, Happy Baby by Giovanna Fletcher.

These are just a few but there are loads out there, I guess it just depends what you like.

Blogs

Made by Mammas (by Zoe and Georgia, who do the podcast of the same name!)

And then I was lucky enough to already know of two mummy bloggers as we were friends at school years ago for a bit – Sarah over at Whimsical Mumblings and Kerry Conway at Lived with Love .

I also discovered Kayla Buell on my TTC googlings and she has a blog over at Lost Gen Y Girl that I also found helpful.

Plus the gorgeous and glamorous Rose – of The Londoner fame, who was an old fave lifestyle, fashion and general recipe blogger of mine – now has a baby and so does some posts on mum and baby life which are helpful. (Ps an old non-mum fave: check out her recipe for Slutty Brownies!)

I didn’t discover her until I was pregnant, but Lucie and the Bump is great too, and I like following her because she’s just a couple of weeks ahead of me in her second pregnancy.

Mummy youtubers

I am very particular about the youtubers I watch, and I struggle with mum youtubers sometimes. These are the ones I like, most others I struggle with. Always keen for recommendations though!

  • Fleur De Force & Fleur De Vlog (I love that Fleur didn’t start as a mum vlogger, she’s first and foremost herself doing mostly beauty, fashion and lifestyle but NATURALLY her life changed once she found out she was having a baby, and I love her pregnancy vlogs etc. I find her really relatable and maybe one of the youtube mums I feel like I’d be similar to, so I really like and relate to the style of her videos. Also her little girl River Wren is ADORABLE and I REALLY RESPECT Fleur’s decision not to feature River too much and put her all over the internet and keep it about River’s choice as she gets older!)
  • Kerry Conway (we went to school together so maybe I’m biased haha but I love following her adventures with her 3 girls and her husband back where I grew up. Loads of helpful info and tips, and she juggles motherhood with entrepreneurial work which is great!)
  • Kayla Buell (most US based mommy vlogs haven’t been my cup of tea but I love Kayla’s videos! At the time of writing she has a little girl called Riley and is about to pop with her baby boy! I love that she was smart, educated, with a career but fully owned her choice to say “screw the haters, I want to be a stay at home mum”)**
  • Lucieandthebump – I discovered Lucie when I was almost 10 weeks pregnant and she’s at 14 weeks so a little bit ahead so it’s fun to follow her journey as we’re so close with where we’re at! She does other content too that I don’t really follow so much.
  • Jessica Hover – she has a couple of baby 101 and newborn tips videos that seem like they’ll be super useful**

**with these American ones, if you’re an atheist like me, the religion can get a bit much, so usually I skip any of those parts!

The technical stuff – tests, OPKs etc.

So I was determined not to use ovulation kits and not to obsess and just enjoy our period of trying when we first talked about it. That went out of the window for various reasons, including Boy having to travel for work and us wanting to maximise our chances… obviously at this point we had no idea it would happen first cycle. So… we ordered the OPKs and then I ordered a BBT thermometer to be extra careful. Here are my technical bits & pieces that I’d recommend.

  • Clearblue ovulation test advanced digital – these are pricier than the super cheap ones on Amazon, but I wanted a clear, definitive answer on fertility, not to stress about whether there was a line or not! You have a super clear smiley face if you’re ovulating, and a flashing smiley if you’re high fertility. Simple. Stress-free!
  • Clearblue digital pregnancy tests, especially the Clearblue Pregnancy Early Detection Triple Check kit – these just feel more reliable to me to confirm what you’ve seen on a cheapie, but obviously they’re too expensive to keep shelling out for if you’re testing a lot, so also invest in the below!
  • ‘One Step’ test strips (Amazon cheapie pregnancy tests!) – life savers if you’re getting obsessive in the two week wait. You get x50 in this pack and don’t have to pay a fortune. Obvs I now have millions left over that I didn’t end up using haha… oops!
  • Pre-seed lube – apparently regular lube can kill swimmers (fact of the day haha!), and even if you don’t normally need or want lube, if you’re having a lot more sex than normal to try, trust me – buy some of this! Makes everything super easy, and it’s sperm friendly. Woo!
  • Femometer Digital Basal Body Thermometer – accurate to 1/100th of a degree, it also has its own app to help you chart and tell when you’re going to ovulate, but I also tracked my results into my Glow app.

Your recommendations…?

I am obsessed, as you can tell, with learning what the hell I’m in for as I want to be as well prepared, happy and healthy as I can be so that in turn our little cub is super happy and healthy too… so any books, pods, apps, you name it, hit me up!

Also please, PLEASE share your fave pregnancy workouts and any youtubers you think I might like who are similar to the above.

How crazy is this?!! I can’t even explain how excited we both are ❤

B xoxox